Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
CRUISING BIG STYLE! MERVYN HANCOCK JOINS THE GRAND PRINCESS FOR A TRIP AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN.
We whizzed through the dock gates at Southampton with some apprehension, on the weekend after the children had been returned to their classrooms after a half term break! We knew that our cruise ship, The Grand Princess, would be filling up with mainly adult passengers, but wife Sue and I also knew that there were three ships in dock, ready to embark on the first of the 2009 season's Mediterranean cruises, and that the total number of souls taking part in this adventure would total over 7,000.
I expected chaos, but was pleasantly surprised at the slick and efficient operation which saw our car parked, luggage hoisted onboard, and being established in our cabin within the space of 20 minutes. Not bad considering the ship had only docked five hours earlier and was due to set sail again in just 120 minutes.
The Grand Princess had sailed from Fort Lauderdale in the USA and brought over a cargo of Americans, 240 of which would remain with us for the 14 day voyage to Spain, Italy, France andMonaco, and prove to be most amiable travelling companions.
With almost 20 cruises under our belts, Sue and I were considered to be veteran sailors, but nothing prepared us for the vastness of our amazing ship, which dwarfed everything else we encountered, and only needed six walks around the promenade deck to complete a mile! Two other giants set off before us, following more or less the same route, and the numbers and variety of people waving from their balconies as they sailed past demonstrated how cruising has now become a vacation that's affordable for almost everyone.
Indeed, there are so many cruise ships plying the world's oceans at the moment that it is possible to embark on a holiday that costs around £60 per person per night -- and don't forget that food, travel, accommodation and entertainment are all thrown in. Not many, if indeed any, hotels can match that. And with another ship, capable of holding over 5,000 passengers, due to be launched in a few months, competition and prices between the big operators can only get keener.
Thus far, Sue and I had stuck mainly to the smaller ships, which are capable of getting into a bigger variety of ports, but the Grand Princess was a lady with a lot to offer.
We were allocated a mini-suite on deck nine, midships, and very near to the countless elevators which swept passengers up and down to various dining rooms, theatres, bars, salons, pools, gyms and shopping areas.
This was like being in the middle of a large town, with so many places to visit that, at first, we were quite mesmerised by it all.
Should we lounge around on our private balcony in the sunshine, and take advantage of the 24 room service, find a lounger on one of the vast decks, or risk piling on the pounds in the dining areas, where food and drink were available throughout the day and night? Or should we wander around this veritable metropolis on the high seas and simply soak up the atmosphere? We did both, and enjoyed every minute of it!
Princess Cruises offer a really useful dining plan too! You can either choose traditional dinner, with the same companions each evening, or go for "Anytime" plans where you simply turn up when you are hungry, sit alone or join others, and if that doesn't suit, there's a 24 hour buffet offering more or less the same choice of food.
Lobster, steaks, pasta, exotic dishes specially created by top chefs, mouth watering sweets, cakes and other delights were eagerly demolished by an appreciative audience, who seemed to still find room for the afternoon treat of home made ice-cream!
We deliberately stayed away from the eating areas during the morning and afternoon, because it was simply too tempting.
Entertainment was available from early morning to the wee small hours, although no one tried to force anyone to join in! Two main theatres -- as lavish as anything on shore -- offered variety shows, while music and dancing could be found in many other parts of the ship. Many of the Americans favoured the huge Casino, while the discotheque at the very top of the vessel was mainly occupied by people seeking sanctuary, as there weren't many youngsters onboard to take advantage of the nightly boogy-woogying!
Many of the onboard cabins had their own veranda – a trend which is becoming more and more popular, and available as the ships get bigger. Ours had a bathroom with tub and shower, walk-in wardrobes, a Queen-size bed, separate sitting area with a comfortable settee and chair, fridge and two huge televisions – one for the lounge area and the other for the bedroom. Programme choice was limited, but who wants to watch television with so much else going on?
Bargain prices for the initial cruise mean that many people can now take advantage of what used to be, a holiday for the "well off" and often a once in a lifetime experience. But you do need to be aware of those "extras" which seem to crop up a lot more often on the bigger ships, especially those operated by the Americans.
Gratuities are the main taking point among the British passengers – many of whom opted to remove the "discretionary" charge of around £7 per night per passenger -- including children -- which is automatically added to each bill. We were told that this cash is distributed among the crew to people like the cabin steward, waiter and backroom workers, and makes up a large part of their wage. I have no doubt that this is true, but it does beg the question of why they need to rely on such a substantial tip, and whether it should be imposed even before you meet many of them! I do prefer the system operated in the Fred Olsen ships, where you tip individuals at the end of the voyage, and give them what you think they deserve.
Onboard prices for drinks include a 15 per cent gratuity, and by British pub standards are expensive. I paid £10 for a can of draught Guinness and a medium glass of red wine, and even the soft drinks were around £1-40p, although you could buy a "soda package" which allowed you to drink as many as you like.
Another moan on many ships is the charges for "shuttle buses." Often the vessel docks away from the main town and city centres, and you have to pay to get from the port to the shops. Organised shore excursions also add up to hundreds of pounds, so you need to watch that credit card. You don't actually spend money onboard, as everything is charged to your shipboard account and settled at the end of the voyage. My own bill – modest by many standards – came to $1100 or around £730 for two weeks, which included two shore excursions, tips, drinks, cover charge for an onboard steakhouse and some duty free items.
We were looking forward to three of the eight ports of call -- Rome to see the Vatican, Naples for a visit to Pompeii and Monte Carlo to see the preparations for the famous Grand Prix. At all three the local "businessmen" were awaiting the tourists to extract as much money as they could from our short visits. Like £14 for a pint of lager in Monte Carlo, £8 for two ice cream cones in the Vatican, and an attempt to get £5 for a cone of popcorn in Pompeii! But the tours were well organised and worth the money.
Bargain hunters were out in force in Gibraltar, and with cigarettes costing £14 for 200, and spirits as little as £4-50p a litre, it is no wonder that some thoughts turned to smuggling! Don't try it though. You are allowed the old duty free allowance, and customs officers await you at Southampton. We opted, instead, for a wonderful fruity curry in the local pub, run by a cheerful Cornish woman, at normal prices – a real change from the very expensive Euro zone!
Glorious weather followed us most of the way, and we even sunbathed on our veranda through the notorious Bay of Biscay, which was flat calm.
Many of our fellow passengers were on their umpteenth cruise with Princess, and looking forward to even more adventures. On my part I would happily book another trip on Grand Princess, and despite those extra charges, cruising is still -- pound for pound -- one of the best bargains around.
Mervyn and Sue Hancock travelled with Princess Cruises onboard Grand Princess which is offering a selection of cruises from Southampton throughout the year. Contact reservations on 08453555800 for details.
Warning: This is a long one!!!
My partner and I returned from our 2-week Amazon cruise ten days ago. I read many reviews about the Tahitian and Pacific Princess, as well as other Princess ships, and was not ready for the experience we had. As the moderator alluded to, I know we all have our own "subjective" experiences, which makes them ours, not anyone else's. I certainly don't want to step on toes and offend anyone, but on the other hand, feel the need to share our own personal experience. I will only share some of our issues, not all.
We arrived in Manaus, Brazil after a wonderful stay at the Conrad in Miami and a nice flight into Manaus. It was pouring down rain when we arrived, muggy and wet, but it was wonderful. Gathered our luggage and met the Princess man and followed him to the bus.
Our bus was delayed, as we had to wait almost 2 hours for another passenger to try and "prove" he was on our list, and was supposed to take the bus (only a 25-minute ride).
The bus ride was fairly uneventful. My otherhalf and I sat in the front of the bus. There was a driver and a "guide." The guide tried to break the ice, I guess. He began telling jokes. He slammed Christians, Muslims, Catholics and Mormons, and then he attacked women and last but not least -- yep, gays. He was laughing and rolling his eyes telling the audience on the bus about two Asian men who had to "push their beds together" and he referred to one of them as a "mam" instead of a "man." While he never used the word "gay," he didn't need to! His disrespect and lack of tolerance for gay men and women was apparent. It was awful. He was attempting to work up the riders and get a reaction out of them. I finally, very loudly said, "SO, WHAT? THEY'RE GAY. WHAT'S YOUR POINT?" He looked down at me and said, "Well, anyway," and went on to something else, later shooting me a nasty look. I heard a couple of passengers behind us agree with me.
Got off the bus and went through the terminal, checking in. The process was smooth and efficient. Left the terminal and walked down the pier to the ship. There were no signs pointing us in the right direction. We stopped, and looked -- nothing. It was pouring rain, so we followed the folks in front of us, not knowing they were Princess employees and boarding in the Employee Only section. Of course we were then scolded for trying to board where they board! Walked back out, and looked around and there were no indicators. It wasn't our first cruise, so we walked forward to the other entrance, which was the correct one. I turned around and said to my partner, "This isn't Celebrity." I couldn't have been more right.
On Celebrity, we're always greeted with welcome champagne or juice. The staff is up there, and they offer a warm welcome or "Welcome Back!," always asking how many cruises we've been on, who are we, where are we from, etc. There was nothing there -- no welcome, no smiles -- nothing. We found the elevator and then our cabin. This was around 2 PM. There was no "sanitation station" either. On Celebrity, staff is always walking around with hand sanitizers and even monitoring staff who walk into the food venues, insisting it be done. Not so on Princess. Not one staff member saw to this. There were limited hand sanitizers and at one point, I noticed the one I was attempting to use was empty. I mentioned this to a staffer walking by, she shrugged her shoulders and kept on walking.
You know how your cabin attendant is always there? You can't come or go without a cheerful, "Hello, Sir!" Ours was nowhere to be seen, until a few hours later. Throughout our stay, he was always friendly; however, he did forget a morning clean and an evening clean/turn-down. No worries, he was still pleasant and tried hard.
After dropping off our carry-on bags, we went to the Maitre'd to check on our table for 2. We reserved this cruise 6-months prior and were on a waitlist for an early seating, table for 2. We walked into the lounge to see the Maitre'd. The woman at the front did not offer us a number, but said to come back at 3:30. We left to check out the ship, and buy our Spa Pass for the duration. We came back at 3 PM and looked around. There were more people in the lounge. I saw people holding cards with numbers and then realized we should have been given one, but were not earlier. I felt like we were "shooed" away. No big deal. We got our number (#27) so we waited about 2-hours to see the man.
We were talking with other passengers ahead and behind us, still excited, of course. We saw the Maitre'd "bump" (the new urban hand shake) other passengers, and they walked away smiling and laughing, thanking him. We walked up there and his countenance was grim, almost intimidating. I was respectful and tried to compliment him, the ship, etc. and he broke in with, "What can I do for you?" I asked about our table and waitlist. We were waitlisted as number 10 before the cruise. He just shook his head, and said, "No, I'm sorry. We have a table for you at the late dining." I asked once more and shared with him our wait list number, my low blood sugar, short of pleading with him -- and asked nicely. He said, "No, but I'll put you on my list and let you know if something comes up." We waited -- and waited.
Interestingly, both couples before us were higher on the waitlist (one was 15 and one was 22) and BOTH (assuming) heterosexual couples received their tables for 2. We later learned that there were empty tables in the early dining. We ran into the Maitre'd several days later and he said we could show up every night and wait and see if a table was available, but he wouldn't guarantee anything. I guess it was his attitude and the fact that two other couples got what they wanted, and we were lower on the wait list. The Maitre'd told us that over half the ship on our cruise had also sailed on the cruise prior, which was the same itinerary as ours, but in reverse; although the cruise was not sold, solicited as or booked as a 4-week, but as 2 separate or back-to-back cruises, and those who sailed the 2-weeks prior had preference in dining over us! How is that fair?
As a result, we did not eat any dinners in the Club Restaurant. First time ever that we did not eat in the main dining room; we were very disappointed. We ended up eating at the two specialty restaurants, Panorama Buffet or on shore every night. We did have a couple of lunches in the dining room. The wait staff and Maitre'd, as a result, received $0 gratuity from us. We gave it to the staff in the specialty dining. The Panorama Buffet only offers plastic plates, very limited drink station and no trays! Celebrity offered more refreshments, trays and glass/ceramic plates and bowls. Celebrity staff is always there to assist you in bringing your tray to your table, without asking! Also, Princess does not brew fresh coffee ("urn coffee" lol). Their coffee is syrup, but not bad for concentrate. Brewed coffee is a charge.
We found Princess to have nickel and dimed us. Others have seen that on Celebrity. Perhaps all ships are doing this now.
Room service menu? They only offer cold sandwiches and chips, chocolate cookies or fruit. Breakfast was only Continental. Juice after 11 AM? That's a $3 charge. Pizza (the only hot item delivered to your cabin)? That's a $3 charge. Ice cream? $3. We stayed in a Mini-Suite too (very similar to a Sky Suite on Celebrity). We thought there would be an enhanced room service menu and amenities, not so. No flowers, champagne, stationary, nice robes, pillow choices, canapés. So we just bit the bullet. I found it odd that one could pay close to a thousand more and not receive anything additional (besides square footage). Again, not the case on Celebrity. In the comparable Sky Suite on Celebrity, one formal night we enjoyed filet mignon and lobster, wine (and all the courses) in our Suite! There was no charge for this. In a standard Concierge Class stateroom on Celebrity, one can order cheeseburgers, pizza or other good hot meals, at no charge.
The first night we were pretty amazed, as we saw the Captain come down to the Panorama Buffet and what looked to us, unashamedly flirt and try to make a pass at one of the female food workers. Hmmm, does Quid Pro Quo apply to Maritime Law? Incidentally, on our last night we were eating in the Steakhouse and the Captain walked by with the trampy woman who worked in the sundry gift shop (yes, my partner had a run-in with her attitude and lack of service and I witnessed her talking to another passenger about how a certain, famous man could "share her pillow"). We became close with a few employees (as most of us all do) and when we asked our waitress, she told us the Captain was "always trying to sleep with the female employees." Nice, huh? He was married she said. Of course that's not the point. While I'm digressing about the Captain, three times on the cruise, while he would make his morning and noon announcements, he said, "This is Captain ____ from the Command Bridge. The time is 9 AM (or 12-noon) according to my very expensive Cartier Watch!" Tacky.
The food in the Panorama Buffet was good. Breakfast never changed, it was the same every day. The dinner buffet was generally the same food items they were serving in the Club Dining Room (main). In our opinion, the food on Celebrity was 100% better in the specialty restaurants, as well as the service, ambiance and presentation. The lunches we had in the dining room were not as good as Celebrity. The buffet was not nearly as extensive as Celebrity, BUT the food was good, sans the desserts. Celebrity gets the nod there. Also, Celebrity does not charge for pizza, ice cream/dessert, juices, etc., as their room service menu is extensive; and they offer hot cooked to order, breakfast/lunch and dinner.
Our mini suite was large. On the surface it looked beautiful, but the closer we got, it was very tired and worn (sagging and rips in the wallpaper, three doors were not level on the hinge, one drawer was off). I don't believe there has been any restoration since Princess purchased this ship. The bed was actually very comfortable. The antiquated TV needed to go (circa 1988). No clock in the room! We don't have to have one, but it's nice to look at the phone and see if you're running late for dinner, etc. Who wants to wear a watch on vaca?
The Pacific Princess is a nice-looking ship. Dark woods and deep blues, reds and greens throughout. We really didn't have any complaints with the ship itself, we were pleased. My partner commented that it looked as if it was decorated by Bombay.
On Celebrity, the staff is always cleaning. Man, we see them running the vacuums and polishing / sanitizing the rails ALL the time. Not so on Princess. We witnessed that once.
On Celebrity, we return from an excursion and they have hot or cold towels and water / lemonade / hot chocolate. Not so on Princess. Nothing...and they don't even ask, "How was your tour?" "How was your time on shore?" etc. Hell, there wasn't even a "Hello! Welcome back!" We felt like we were just being herded. We continued to get the feeling that it was "all about them", not us, the passengers.
We really enjoyed the tours on Princess. Another cool thing is they have a naturalist or a lecturer (Hutch was his name) who provided daily lectures on the ports. He was also televised, so we could watch him from our cabin, which was nice. Of course, they play old re-runs of "The Love Boat", which was fun, especially as the original Love Boat was the "Pacific Princess" (but of course a different ship). Didn't watch too much TV, but what little we did, the programming was good with decent movies, etc.
The mini fridge worked! I liked that they kept the ice bucket in the fridge (no water in the room either, unlike Celebrity). The fridge was empty so we could put our juice and booze in there-that was nice.
We purchased 2 spa passes at $140 each, which was a good deal. There is a section at the bow of the ship which held a small Thallossotherapy pool and 16 padded chaise lounges. This private sun deck / spa area was only for passengers who forked out the dough, it was supposed to be private, and I think for the most part it was. It was great to come out here, as we never had to haggle or "reserve" a chaise. It was quiet and private. Adjacent to this private deck is the men's and women's locker rooms. The men's locker room was very nice. There were lockers, a changing area, deluxe showers and a 'men’s only' steam room. I guess what bothered us the most was the male entertainers would come in and use this area as their own personal dressing room! Several times we witnessed two or three of the staff coming in to: shower, shave, steam, etc. and LEFT A MESS!! One time, I found myself cleaning up after one of the "stars", I think his name was “Luke". He was a pig. My guess was they got ready in there, so they wouldn't have to clean their own stateroom / bathroom? Makes sense, but still wasn't appropriate in my opinion.
On one particular morning, we were almost run over in the buffet line by a crew member's family who came on board for the day (to eat and visit). We heard them introducing his family to other staffers on the ship. This was in St. Lucia I believe. Later in the day, around 3 PM, the ship getting ready to sail at 5 or so, and we were in the men's locker room showering from our deck time and steam. The staffer and his male friend (or brother) came in. The staffer introduced him to one of the entertainers (the "pig") and they exit to the private deck! We were getting dressed and could hear one of the men yelling off the ship to someone way down below on the dock. He did this three times...he was yelling to get someone's attention down below. I finally walked out to the deck, and sure enough-it was the family member of the staffer. Nice. Good impression too. There just didn't seem to be any boundaries with some of the Princess staff.
We both purchased spa treatments, and they were very good. Interestingly, Princess uses the same vendor as Celebrity for their Spa staff and treatments. All were very nice and the prices reasonable. The products were by Elemis.
Pacific Princess doesn't have the huge theater, it's a Cabaret Lounge. So the performances are up close and personal, which would be fine if they were better. We walked out of 4 shows, attending only 6. The numbers which were not lip-synced were off, just not that good in my opinion. The view was cut off because it wasn't stadium seating. It was hard to see anything. Waaay too much make up, most of them looked like clowns, and very animated for a close, intimate theater. We stood up in the back on two of the shows, so we could see. The comedian was excellent in my opinion.
The gaming was OK. We scored at slots and the 2 or 3 times we went in there, only witnessed one smoker. It wasn't that bad otherwise. Friendly staff in the Casino.
We had a disagreement with Ronnie at the Excursion Desk. Without going into detail, he lied to me. After walking up to our cabin, I called back down there to share with him feedback. He would not budge. I asked for his supervisor, he told me he had none, and that he was the "highest we could go." Of course this was not the truth, and we were given a partial credit. My point is, WHY did we have to escalate? Par for the course I guess.
I could go on, but won't. I think in all honesty, we would have put this into perspective much easier, if the service was on par with what we are used to. I remember being on the roll call board (on another site) for Princess before the cruise and saying good things about Celebrity and the other Princess people getting pissed off. I remember one person saying, "Celebrity is Stuffy-stuffy-stuffy!" . Well after this past cruise, I guess I am stuffy and I like stuffy, lol. Never really considered that.
Our experience was very negative, but primarily because of the service. A provider of hospitality doesn't have to offer the same menu, agenda or novelties that the next one does, but without the extra level of quality *service*, it's very difficult to get past what you feel is lacking. I felt like the staff just didn't care, in all honesty. We were confident in our opinion that Princess was doing us a favor, by letting us on their ship. They seem to only look out for themselves. To them, "it's just a job." Our experience with this cruise line / ship was the last we will have. They say, "The old dog only bites once." Well, once was enough for us. I know this is not everyone's opinion, but sadly it was ours - from the beginning to the end.
We disembarked the ship on Friday and were sitting in the Miami airport. Both whipped out hand-held phones and started surfing for cruises on Celebrity, and we just booked a Celebrity Infinity cruise for this September. Hoping this re-affirms our faith in cruising, and so relieved to be going back to the =X=.
I think if we started out with Princess years ago, we either would not expect anything different or we wouldn't see the value, and would have stopped cruising. With the exception of one Carnival cruise in my former life, we have always sailed with Celebrity and it is such a different and wonderful experience to us. I'm sure they're not for everyone, but we absolutely love the Celebrity service, amenities, venues...everything!
Thanks for reading. Sorry for the length, but I hope this provides insight to anyone who is interested. To those who have sailed Princess and love them? I mean you no argument or discord. Enjoy!
On a scale from 1-10 -- Pacific Princess, line and ship:Service Overall: 1 Food: 5 Entertainment: 3 Venues: 4 Cabin Attendant and Housekeeping: 7 Food service staff (sans Maitre'd): 4 Excursion Staff(desk): 1 Tours/Excursions: 9 Purser(s): 5 Spa services: 8 Overall: Won't be back
Happy Sailing everyone!
This was a 10 day Southern Caribbean Medley cruise.
We had an obstructed view cabin E504 which had a good view and was mid ship.
We had Anytime Dining and made a standing reservation for 6pm at Da Vinci dining room. We found the buffet to be better for breakfast and lunch. The food in general was typical cruise ship fare, nothing spectacular.
We had seen 2 of the production shows on other cruises, and we felt the entertainment was mediocre.
The crowd was older -- and there are lots of penny slots in the casino. The movie selections were very good.
We enjoyed all of the ports. In Aruba we took the bus to Palm Beach, then we went to Eagle Beach. We caught a taxi back to the ship.
In Bonaire we did the ship's tour to Klein Bonaire, where the snorkeling was superb.
In Dominica, we booked Bumping Tours for the Roseau Valley Treasures tour, which was a great day!
In Grenada we took a water taxi to Grand Anse -- the spices at the beach and at the port were the cheapest (not in the town). The beach was gorgeous, butthere are vendors who bug you.
We went to Emerald Beach in STT, having been to Sapphire and Megans Bay previously. It is convenient to Crown Bay and like a mini-Megans Bay.
Princess Cays started out chilly, but turned out to be beautiful. It never got crowded because so many older folks did not want to tender.
After 10 days I didn't want to leave. It was a great cruise.
I have just returned from a cruise on the Sun Princess. You can find my detailed review here.
Photos of the ship can be viewed here.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries and I'll try to answer them for you!
Princess Cruises -- Air Deviation Fee Scheme This was by far the worst of our many trips (including 15 cruises) all over the world. Princess booked us on a very tight flight connection and would not change it unless we paid hundreds more in "Air Deviation Fees." We declined and suffered the consequences. As feared, we missed our flight and had to make it on our own to South America to catch the Star Princess at her second port of call. We incurred considerable expenses which Princess refused to reimburse us for, claiming it was a "legal" air connection. We did not get our luggage until returning home on the 18th day.
This was our first cruise on Princess and we would not consider using their services again. A quick search of the internet will disclose many of the questionable business practices they employ including the "Air Deviation Fee" scheme they used on us. We believe that their scheme works like this. A customer books a cruise and makes the final payment. About 20-30 days before departure Princess issues the air schedule. The customer notes that they have many short and/or tightconnections and expresses his concern. Princess tells the customer that it is a "legal" connection, but they will change it for an "Air Deviation Fee" (One man we spoke with on the ship paid an additional $1400 to get an acceptable schedule.) Since the customer is now in the penalty phase of the booking, Princess will keep all or most of the customer's money if they cancel.
AVOID THIS COMPANY AT ALL COSTS.
Cruising with Kids to the Mexican Rivera.
Our family of four just went on the Sapphire Princess in February. When I was researching the cruise I found very little information about traveling with kids. So this might be a long review, but I assure you it will help your family have a great time.
We flew into Burbank, CA because the airfare was incredibly cheaper. Then we took a taxi to the cruise ship port. About $120 one way. Still cheaper!
Embarkation It took about an hour. Very straight forward. Get there around 2:00-3:00 and the lines aren't as long.
Hint: They have a new rule. All luggage must be checked at the ship's dock. You can only bring onboard luggage the size of a carry on. So, for us, that meant the suitcase that had all of our summer clothes and swimsuits in it could not be brought onboard the ship. Thankfully, I was surprised it did not take long for our suitcases to be brought to our cabin. Impressive!
Cabin We always choose an inside cabin close to the middle of the ship for several reasons. First, the motion of theship is not as noticeable. This trip was worse than others. Second, it's not as noisy during docking at the ports. (We were on Aloha deck and we didn't hear much of anything.) The last reason is that it's dark, so you can sleep in or take a nap during the day.
Note: Since our room didn't have a window, it was rather warm at night. The thermostat was set as cool as it would go, but it was still too warm for me and my husband.
Our cabin was small for a family of four. But it was manageable. The cabin was divided into two parts. The dressing area was to the left as you come into the room. It had a large spacious closet, with about 30 wooden hangers, a floor-length mirror (open that up and there were shelves). It also housed the lifejackets and safe. The bathroom is also in this area. Nothing fancy, but adequate. Stand up shower, commode and sink area. There are no plug-ins, but ample storage for two adults' toiletries.
The sleeping area was next. It was small. There were two single beds with two nightstands in between them. On each nightstand was a lamp. On the opposite wall there was a large mirror, TV -- in a cubby, which was hanging from the ceiling -- and a large desk and chair that covered the length of the wall. There was also a small refrigerator and small decorative round table. Each night the steward would come around and pull down the bunk beds from the ceiling. The kids loved sleeping up there!
Soda Cards Our family decided to buy the two kids all you can drink soda, "mock tails" and ice-cream cards. $60 something dollars. Mom and dad utilized the cards more than the kids did. We got free soda and drinks (non-alcoholic) as often as we wanted. We aren't big drinkers anyway, but this allowed us to enjoy something cold and refreshing for free. Carlos was the waiter that made the best mock tails and he never questioned us. I tipped him a little extra at the end of the cruise.
The Fun Zone was an area of the ship designed just for kids. The kids absolutely loved it! They didn't want to leave. Registration is on the first day. They will need your photo I.D. to keep on record, and to utilize when you pick up your kids. We only used the Fun Zone during sea days from 9-12 and 2-5. It is also open from 7 to later at night. They will provide you with a comprehensive list of events that the kids would get to do everyday. They weren't sitting around watching TV. They actually had things for them to do -- from arts and crafts to exercise games.
Dining We had fixed seating at 6:00 p.m. in the International Dinning Room. The kids enjoyed the experience and even tried all the unusual foods, like escargot, and liked them. Okay, I didn't tell them what it was before they ate it!
Hint: When there was entertainment at night that we wanted to go to, we told our waiter "Robert." He then worked harder and faster to get us out of the dining room before the 7:15 show. That way we didn't have to wait around for the 9:30 show. That was too late for the kids. It was extra work for Robert, but he pulled it off every time!
Photo Ops Take advantage of the photo ops around the ship most nights. We had pictures of the whole family taken on the formal nights. It doesn't cost anything but some of your time. At some backgrounds they took 10-20 photos of our family. They took individual photos, couple, siblings, father with kids, mother with kids and entire family shots.
Hint: Gather your photos every night. Look through them and only keep the "possibilities." Then wait until the last day to choose only the best of the best. You can get a better deal when you buy in bulk. They were pricy, but they put them on a CD for you to take home and there was no sitting fee. Christmas cards here we come!
Food We usually ate our meals in the dining room. We chose to eat at the buffet one morning and were very disappointed. But the food in the restaurant was much better. We would eat at the buffet for sweets and snacks during the day. Most of the meals were excellent. There were a few nights when either the steaks were overcooked, but were corrected right away, the lobster was too salty, or the soup was not blended.
Hint: Ask the server. He or she knows what is best that night. Trust their judgment.
Snacks You have to try the homemade ice-cream! It was excellent and my children ate it three times a day.
Hint: They have free cookies and milk at around 3:30 to 4:00. But they also serve free ice cream at the same time at the buffet. YUMMY!
Ship The ship itself was lovely and grand without being over done and gaudy. There was more than enough things to keep us busy -- Shuffle board, walking track, paddle tennis, 5 pools, tours and activities, and shopping.
Hint: I would suggest you wait and make your ship purchases later in your trip. They had 75% sale on the last day at sea.
Entertainment Our family enjoyed the music productions. Very good. But, they were not what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a Las Vegas style show. It was more hip hop, jazz dancing. Still very entertaining. The singing was average, but the dancing was awesome. They really put all their energy into each show.
Hint: Get to the showroom at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat. It filled up quickly 10 minutes before the show.
As far as the piano player, singers, etc., we didn't really go to any of those shows, and the one we did see, we left soon after it started (below average!). We did see the comedians. One was from the Beach Boys many years ago. Funny! The other one was Dan Bennett. Hilarious! He was a comedian and juggler. Spectacular! He wasn't necessarily kid-friendly, but it mostly went over their heads anyway. What he was talking about, a lot of it went over my head too! A must see!
Weather We traveled in February and it was cool on board the ship with the wind blowing all the time. I packed sweatshirts for everyone and we used them just about everyday, whether in the dining room, on deck and even in port. Better to be safe than sorry.
Attire We always made a point to dress for supper as they suggested -- even with the kids. But I did see many kids wearing flip flops and shorts to supper.
Disembarkation We were amazed at how quickly disembarkation went. They only looked at our passports and the children's birth certificates once. They didn't ask questions or even look through our bags. WOW! Twenty minutes and we were out of there!
A few more helpful hints:I brought a shoe organizer, per someone else's tip, and discovered it was a great idea. I was not able to hang it over the bathroom door, but I was able to hang it, with a hanger, in the closet. We stored bathroom items, shoes, sunscreen and everything else to help stay organized. The kids loved having their own little pockets. We ordered two Princess robes to wear around the room. I noticed on the first night that the bedrails rattled when they were touched. Every time the kids kicked them, it woke me up. So, I figured out that when it was time for bed I used both belts, from the robes, to tie the kids bedrails together. I'm talking one bed's bedrail to the other bed's bedrail. Yes, the belts were in the middle of the room and in the grownups' way, but it decreased the sound of the bedrails jiggling and clanging while the kids slept. Bring an extension cord. There are only two plug-ins at the desk area. Sound machine. This really cut down on sounds you would normally hear outside the door, and the kids moving around. Motion sickness pills. I really thought since the ship was so large that there would be little motion. I was wrong. Over open water it was quite rocky. Things would even roll around and one night the hangers were banging in the closet!
Extra Useful Hints Bring plenty of small bills (ones, fives and tens) on your trip. We ran out!) Bring trash bags or Wal-Mart bags to put wet or dirty items in. Bring clothes pins to hang wet swimsuit in the shower. Bring Lysol spray to clean handles and door knobs or in case someone gets sick. The passenger services desk will make one free complimentary phone call for you. Ask for the complimentary robes. Utilize what the ship has to offer. If you're not sure about something, just ask! The passenger services desk will make change for you.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Mary & Vincent Finelli Western Caribbean January 24, 2009
We booked our 40th (ruby) Wedding Anniversary cruise on the Ruby Princess -- very fitting. The Ruby is a most elegant ship; while berthed in Port Everglades, she is unmistakable with the distinctive logo of a Princess with flowing hair. She is the newest of the fleet and a credit to Fincantieri, her constructors. Captain Tony Draper (Scotland and Cornwall) is a very personable and erudite gentleman -- We look forward to sailing with him again in the near future.
Embarkation The Ft. Lauderdale Port is a highly secure one, so on the way to the pier allow time for up to 30 minutes for security checks. We arrived at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance; we were through check-in, which is done by separate counters for each deck. This system makes the lines shorter and faster. We were on board by 1:15 and in our cabin. After checking on our dinner arrangements with our old friend Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone, we reserved a table for two at 6:00pm each evening. We were off to the buffet, Princess pizza servedout on the Horizon Terrace. Excellent! Then we went back to our cabin to rest until the boat drill, which was well organized and orderly. Our station was the Wheelhouse, where we were comfortably seated. Princess does not make passengers line up in the sun facing the elements on the Promenade deck as other lines do, rather it assigns public areas inside the ship for muster stations.
Ship The Ruby Princess (Hull # 6150) was built in Fincantieri, Cantieri Navali, Monfalcone, Italy, like her sisters the Emerald and the Crown Princesses. Her inaugural cruise was on November 8, 2008, thus making her only three months old. She is 948.0 ft long, 118.1 ft wide (165.7 ft including stabilizer wings), with a draft of only 27.88 ft. The Ruby Princess is 113,561 tons and her height is 219.8 ft, with a total of 18 decks and a passenger capacity of 3,150 (3,175 this cruise), with a crew of 1,200 from 54 countries around the globe.
Decks 1, 2, 3, & 4 are for crew only -- except for the Medical Center on the latter.
Decks 5, 6, & 7 are all public areas. Deck 5 aft has the Michelangelo Dining Room, with the wood panel walls and sconces for lighting; in the ceiling there are miniature lights that twinkle on and off like stars. The room is elegant in a subdued manner. The walls have murals of Italian pastoral scenes. Next, midship is the impressive Piazza, an atrium three decks tall, with a waterfall and a huge Tiffany light covering almost the entire ceiling. The floor is a mosaic of arcs and circles. This is a popular gathering place with a Cafe` serving specialty coffees and delicate pastries including marzipan "Pasta Reale" (miniature fruits), etc. There is also a wine, cheese and sushi bar which encourages sampling of many savory delights. Forward on Deck 5 are a Laundromat and cabins.
Deck 6, all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room and toward midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room. Here, midship are located the Reception desk and the shops, then the Gatsby Casino and the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (this tiny area keeps the Casino smoke free). Forward is the Princess Theater with a red Austrian tucked curtain and red and gold embossed seats. There is a clear, unobstructed view of the stage from every seat. Bravo! The Walnut wood walls add to the understated elegance of the theater.
Deck 7 aft has the Club Fusion, the Photo Gallery, the Explorers Lounge (nightly live shows and music) and the upscale restaurant Crown Grill. Midship there are the Wheelhouse Bar and a well stocked Library with convenient hours. Forward is the Princess Theater balcony with a reserved area in the rear for wheelchairs.
Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 14 are all passenger cabins.
Deck 15 has the Horizon Terrace, the Cafe`Caribe and the Horizon Court Buffet. Next, midship is the Calypso Reef and Pool, Pizza and Ice Cream Bar, Neptune Reef and Pool, Mermaid's Tail and Trident Grill. Forward there are other passenger cabins, Thermal Suites and the Lotus Spa.
Deck 16, all the way aft is the upscale Sabatini's Restaurant which is bigger and more impressive than the Sabatini's found on other classes of Princess ships. Here, midship is "Movies Under the Stars" giant screen, and forward are the Lotus Spa, Fitness Center and Aerobics, and the Wedding Chapel (8 weddings this week). During dinner in Sabatini's, we spoke with one of the brides, who was having the reception dinner there, and she expressed high praise for the Princess royal treatment.
Deck 17 has aft the Chill Out, the Fun Zone, Off Limits and the Video Arcade for the young ones, midship the Sun Terrace, and forward the posh Sanctuary, an exclusive relaxing oasis, a "Pocket of Tranquillity," with a nominal charge of $10.00 for a half day or $20.00 for a full day pass.
Deck 18 aft has Skywalkers Nightclub.
Deck 19 aft has Cyber golf.
The ship overall is stylish and elegant with lovely murals like the "Reef Scene" on Deck 16 by Morandi Studios, Sassuolo, Italy (a white on white tile design with accents of the palest pastels, all portraying a dream of an underwater scene). Also in the stairwell in this same area is a painting of two Kimonos in red and black on a gold background. There are many lovely decorations on board to enjoy, interspersed with fresh floral bouquets and live orchid plants.
Service and Food Passenger Services Director Dirk Brand has everything under control. The ship is immaculate (CDC Sanitary Inspection score is a perfect 100) and the service is snappy. The passengers are most acutely interested in the food, of course. Here Princess excels, the Executive Chef Manlio Cuzzolin (Mortegliano, Italy) is excellent. Princess accents Italian food with pasta courses served daily. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and cheeses that add variety and elegance to the menus. Plating was exquisite and the Always Available list featured the following: Shrimp Cocktail, Salmon Fillet, Fettuccine Alfredo, Steak, etc.
Appetizers included Spring Rolls, Fried Calamari, Fresh Fruit plates; Soups included both hearty like minestrone and cream of asparagus and delicate broths, as well as cold ones. Salads were dressed lightly or at the table. There were at least two pasta courses (i.e., Puttanesca, Four cheese rigatoni). Vincent liked the spaghetti alle vongole, especially. Entrees were varied and included meat (beef fillet and prime rib, lamb and veal), fish (lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp, cod, etc.), fowl (chicken, Cornish hen, duck, etc.) and vegetarian (stir fried oriental vegetables, egg plant Parmigiana, etc.).
Dining service onboard is under Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone who epitomizes elegance and style. Service in the Michelangelo was terrific. There are several options with anytime dining selections available. Specific restaurants were for personal choice times and others for fixed times. Our waiters every evening were Sopha and his assistant Panche under the direction of Head Waiter Rui -- impeccable. There is also "An Evening At The Chef's Table" which includes a galley tour followed by a multi-course tasting menu with Exec. Chef Manlio, all for the culinary connoisseur ($75).
We were also very happy to encounter Asst. Maitre D' Pasquale Marino once again. We have cruised with him several times and are always so surprised that he remembers us by name -- he's very personable. All of the crew made us feel very welcome. Approximately one third of the passengers were repeat cruisers on Princess. That is a great testimonial to the fact that Princess is doing an excellent job.
Cabin Baja B301 (deck 11) is a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony decorated in blues and aquas with beige cabinetry trimmed in pecan wood. When entering on the left there is a huge bathroom with many safety rails and a 4'X4' shower with a folding seat. There is a large sink and two small shelves for toiletries. Next, there is a king size bed flanked by two low bureaus with reading lamps. The far wall is all glass with a sliding door to the balcony on which are two chairs and a small table.
When entering on the right there is a huge full length mirror, a triple armoire with two sections for hanging clothes and one section with shelves and a personal safe. Next, there is a long table with a TV console, refrigerator and a cupboard. A desk chair, two beige leather barrel chairs, and a coffee table complete the furnishings. On the walls are two large paintings of the Lake Region of Italy. Our Cabin Steward was Wirot who was helpful and efficient all through the cruise. Just terrific!
Entertainment The "Best Smile At Sea" goes to Cruise Director Lisa Ball -- energetic and friendly, she keeps everyone onboard hopping. We cruise to relax and rest, and there are plenty of nice quiet places to sit and enjoy the sea: The promenade has deck chairs conducive to reading and the library is well stocked! There are several areas with pianists or small combos. Princess Patter reports daily the many events at different venues from the Piazza to the Theater, from the Club Fusion to the Explorer Lounge. In the Piazza there are always demonstrations (cooking, flower arrangement, etc.), music and dancing (music each evening with a violinist, piano and bass, and we especially enjoyed the violinist and Magdalena the pianist). Princess Theater had two excellent production shows: "The Great White Way" pairing musical song hits with dance numbers, and "Once Upon A Dream." Every cruise Maitre D' Generoso does a Champagne Waterfall, tall and terrific, and a cooking demonstration in the Theater with Chef Manlio, very entertaining! The Chinese New Years Eve was celebrated on Jan. 25th; this is the year of the Ox.
In the Explorer's Lounge were comedians, and a lively music group. There are Bingo and Slots Tournaments, Basketball, Shuffleboard, and Table tennis, etc. There is something for everyone.
Ports of Call 1-24-09: Fort Lauderdale, FL -- Sail Away -- 5:00pm 1-25-09: At Sea 1-26-09: Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive 8:00am -- Depart 4:00pm 1-27-09: Grand Cayman -- Arrive 7:00am -- Depart 4:30pm 1-28-09: Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive 7:15am -- Depart 5:30pm 1-29-09: At Sea 1-30-09: Princess Cays -- Arrive 8:30am -- Depart 3:30pm 1-31-09: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Arrive 7:00am -- Debarkation
Debarkation Princess handles debarkation very nicely. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin, down to the Gatsby Casino where first come, first served ruled. After about a twenty minute wait we were assisted off and were through passport check, customs and outside by 9:00am, and were at home by 10:00am.
Conclusion This was our eleventh cruise on Princess ships, thus with four more cruises we'll graduate from Platinum to Elite members in the Captain's Circle program which will mean more benefits and perks for us: Preferred Service Package (shoe polishing and complimentary laundry/dry cleaning service), Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up, Upgraded Bathroom Amenities, Complimentary Wine Tasting, 10% Boutique Discount, and other VIP treatment including a special cocktail party with the Captain. These are in part the incentives that make Princess one of our favorite cruise lines. Happy Cruising!
Five of us (2 brothers and their wives, and a sister) travelled together -- between us we had 2 balcony mini-suites next to each other, and an interior cabin. The former were spacious, clean, had ample storage space, and a very generous balcony which easily sat all 5 of us. Service in our cabins was excellent and we really enjoyed being able to place a fruit order each day, which was delivered to our cabin (however the interior cabin suffered from lack of attention in this regard).
The whole ship seemed clean and well cared for and the staff was friendly and helpful. We particularly appreciated our 2 servers in the Provence dining room where we had the "late" seating.
Food onboard was excellent, considering the huge amounts the kitchens had to produce. With the Provence, the Horizon buffet, and room service we never went hungry. We tried the "specialty" restaurant Sabatini's one night and enjoyed the quiet ambience and incredible attention. However, the food was not especially better than what we had in the Provence. So for $20 each extra, we weren't sure it was really worth it.
Every deck seems tohave its own laundry room with about 8 washers and dryers and 2 irons. Soap is for sale and is not too expensive, and neither are the machines. Mornings are a busy time for laundry -- late afternoon is better.
The library is so well stocked that we all regreted lugging books from home in our suitcases.
Internet service is excellent with about 12 stations in all.
Our best shore excursion was "Costa Rica's Favourites with Lunch," with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide in a beautiful country.
We found Princess to be as efficient and competent as any well run hotel and as good as any other cruise line we've traveled on. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either Princess or the cruise through the Canal (from LA to Fort Lauderdale).
That being said, there were a few areas that concerned us:
Shortly after we boarded we realized that our 2 balcony cabins were on the "smoking" side of the ship. Nowhere in the literature had we noticed that Port side is "smoking." Fortunately for us, neither of our immediate neighbours were smokers, but we did meet another passenger who had a rather unpleasant altercation with the smoker in the cabin/balcony next to his. Next time, we will ensure we are on the non-smoking side of the ship.
Princess offers a variety of shore excursions for each port varying from the sedentary to the energetic. Three of us opted for the more energetic ones and we had issues with some of them. Princess, who seems very safety conscious as far as the ship goes, seems unaware of the laxity of standards on some of their excursions.
The "Huatulco river float" warned of the necessity of our donning life jackets and helmets, so one of our party didn't bring his sun hat, thinking it superfluous, only to find that just the life jackets were distributed and consequently he had to spend an hour or so on the river in the hot sun, hatless.
"Colonial Leon and Bubbling Mud Pots" resulted in our being let loose in a field of hot springs erupting through a layer of mud with the only supervision being 10 year old local children who spoke only Spanish. One of our group received a bad burn to one foot when it sunk into super-hot mud where the group was walking. This resulted in several trips to the ship's well-equipped and staffed medical centre. Although the usual medical fees and costs were waived, the injury had a serious dampening impact on the rest of the cruise for those involved.
The tour through the "Mangrove Tunnels" in Cartagena meant that we were punted (4 to a canoe) around a mangrove swamp (from which all the birds and beasts had fled) in a very decrepit, leaky, tippy, dug out canoe perched inches above the filthy water, by a guide who spoke not a word of English.
Princess needs to send its staff out to re-check some of the excursions it offers!
Princess movies offered in the large theatres were a disappointment in both the selection (too many chick flicks) and the timing (usually middle of the day when we are either at lunch or just returning from a shore excursion). Given the number of "at sea" days, better movie entertainment would easily be possible.
We only went to one of the "Scholarship at Sea" lectures and were treated to a dull lecture, read off a power point display, that was far too reminiscent of my grade 10 geography class.
The ship's photographers, while professional in their finished product, were often intrusive to the point of harassment.
We would have preferred more time in each of the ports -- some of which we were only docked at for half a day -- which was not enough time for sightseeing as well as shopping.
And finally, our shipboard account -- delivered to us on the day before departure -- was full of unexplained "codes" and was almost incomprehensible. It might save frustration in the long run to stop by the passenger service desk every day to check the account and verify all the entries.
Beware of Princess Cruises. Once they get your money, you are on your own. They could care less whether you ever make the cruise ship.
We had booked a 28 day cruise on the Tahitian Princess departing from Papeete, Tahiti on Dec. 19, 2008 and arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 14, 2009. Due to weather, our NW flight from Detroit to LA was delayed 2-1/2 hours and arrived after our connecting flight to Papeete had departed. We called Princess and they were absolutely no help. We were told that we were responsible for making our own arrangements to catch the ship.
We flew to Tahiti the next morning arriving 12-1/2 hours after the Tahitian Princess had sailed for Moorea and one-half hour before she departed for Bora Bora. There were no seats available on commercial flights to Bora Bora, which was the last port we could possibly catch the ship before it sailed for South America.
If we were on our own, we would have had to abandon our dream cruise and forfeit the $19,000+ we already had invested. Princess could have cared less as they already had our money andtheir Princess Gold Travel Insurance does not cover this as a trip cancellation.
Fortunately for us there were 11 other Princess clients (2.0% of the total 640 booked passengers) who also found themselves in the same predicament. We were able to join together and charter an Air Tahiti plane at $1,115 each to fly the 13 of us to Bora Bora in time to catch the ship.
When we returned home we filed a claim for our $2600 in hotel, meal and additional air travel expenses with Princess Gold Travel Insurance. We were only reimbursed $500 each per their trip delay policy, which merely represented a refund of our insurance premium.
We appealed to Alan Buckeley, CEO of Princess. In their response letters Princess basically claims no responsibility for anything, even though they made the transportation arrangements.
It is buyer beware when dealing with Princess Cruises. In all fairness, the cruise was excellent; it is Princess Air's travel arrangements that were the problem.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Jody Brown Western Caribbean December 6, 2008
Ruby Princess Cruise Review 12/6-12/13, 2008.
Pre-Cruise >We drove from Columbia, SC (9.5 hours there, 9 hours back) and stayed at Embassy Suites on 17th St. When we left Columbia at 6:00 am it was 50 degrees, when we arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 3:30 pm it was a sunny 75 degrees!
I have stayed at ES before several years ago and it has been renovated very nicely since then. We chose this hotel because of its excellent location (near the port) and we could leave our car there for the week ($10 a day) in a secure area (TIP -- we are starting to find that most hotels in Ft Lauderdale will not allow you to leave your car there for an extended period of time, so please call ahead).
ES still offers many items that only a full service hotel can offer. An example is having a bellhop take the luggage to the room when you arrive and check out. I also like the feeling of being in a suite (divided living room and bedroom). Rooms here havealways been clean, with a very comfortable bed, a small fridge, comfy couch (that opens up into a bed if needed), and a decent sized widescreen LCD television in each of the rooms. The atrium is noisy, however when you close the bedroom door, it obstructs most of the clatter.
The hotel is also next to a nice shopping center which has a Publix grocery store (where we picked up a few last minute items for the cruise) and a few restaurants. We had dinner at Angelo's (dined there before) and it's been remodeled since June of '07. The food was tolerable; however I think we'll look elsewhere next time we're here. Embassy Suites still offers a pretty good breakfast and for the early risers like me, they have drinkable coffee available around 5:30 am in the buffet area. Bonus for us is at sun rise going up to the top floor and looking at the port and seeing the Ruby Princess for the first time in person.
Unless we found a great rate at a similar class of hotel in the area, we would stay here again with no hesitation.
Embarkation A+ -- This was the best ever embarkation I've ever experienced. We left Embassy Suites at 10:50 am (on a reserved mini-bus), arrived at the port at 11:05 am. After dropping off our luggage with the ship porters, walked over to the security/screening line and we were sitting down at 11:15 am (I am a Princess Platinum member and have priority status) in the port passenger waiting area. At 11:30 am they opened up the partition, we were the first ones in the 'Dolphin' line, received our cruise card and then up the escalator to the ship holding area. We waited there for a couple of minutes and the ship photographer said we could get our 'Welcome Aboard' photo taken now instead of waiting. At 11:40 am we walked on the gangway (one of my favorite moments!) to the ship, had our security photo taken for our cruise card and we were in our cabin at 11:50 am. Total time from hotel to our cabin was an incredibly quick and smooth one hour.
Cabin/Room Steward A+ -- We stayed in cabin D730, a mini-suite near the aft of the ship on port side. Suzi and I have stayed in cabin number D730 on every Princess cruise. We enjoy the quiet location and the cabin has plenty of space with very little foot traffic in the hall. Robes and my tux were already in the room when we arrived.
Fridge stayed nice and cold all week. We brought along a gallon of Arizona Southern Sweet Tea and it fit in the fridge just right!
Room temperature was a nice 72 degrees and the only time we had to touch the thermostat was after we had the sliding glass doors open in the morning to get some fresh air in the cabin.
We noticed three items different than the same cabin on the Caribbean Princess -- both TV's are now 26" widescreen LCD's; the individual lights by the bed do not have dimmer switches on them anymore; and we had a TV guide for the first time. To the best of my knowledge, everything else was the same.
Saturday Port/Sailaway I tried calling 'Dine' to make dinner reservations for Sabatini's, which didn't work. Then tried calling the 'dinner reservation' number and you are placed on hold until it disconnects after 45 seconds. We decided it was time for lunch, so we went upstairs and ate by the pool. Next we did a little ship exploring and around 1:00 pm we went up to Sabatini's (according to the Princess Patter they would have someone there from 1 to 4 to take reservations). No one from Sabatini's was there, so we stood around and finally someone (who did not work in the restaurant) asked if they could help. We explained what we wanted and he went over to the phone and dialed in a number and handed me the phone. The lady took our dinner reservation request and said we would receive a confirmation card (which did arrive on the day we requested).
Jojo (our room steward) came by to introduce himself after we returned to our cabin (hoping to see our luggage, which had not arrived yet, however several cabins by us had theirs waiting for them). He came back about thirty minutes later with our welcome aboard glass of champagne for each of us. We spent most of the afternoon watching the 'Love Boat' on TV as we waited for our luggage. Around 3:00 pm Jojo was in the hallway (he was already calling us by our first names) and asked if he could help us with anything and I told him no, I was just looking for our luggage. A few minutes later he knocks on the door and walks in with a bottle of champagne and apologizes for the wait. We went to muster drill at 4:00 pm (nice having this indoors!) and when we returned, our luggage was just arriving. We unpacked and since it was getting close to changing clothes for dinner, we skipped the usual activities on the pool deck and decided to go out on the balcony for sail away.
Another great moment for me is to watch the other ships leave and then look at the condos and small boats pass by as we sail out of the port to begin our week at sea on a cruise vacation.
Sunday -- Sea Day Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. We are both early risers and after trying a cup of coffee (yuck!) from the buffet, we were both thankful the atrium coffee bar serves something drinkable around 6:15 am. Room service breakfast arrives 15 minutes early today (7:15 am) and then we spend rest of the morning exploring the ship again. Then we sit out on the promenade deck watching our ship glide through the ocean to give Jojo a chance to clean. Suzi and I have lunch together in our cabin as it has become a tradition for us to order room service (usually club sandwiches and a salad) on sea days and enjoy it by ourselves in the comfort of our room.
Most of my afternoon is spent in the casino and I won the blackjack tournament ($500) before heading back to the cabin for dinner.
Formal Dinner was ok and most men wore suits. First time in a long time I saw very few tuxes on a Princess ship on formal dress night.
Monday -- Ocho Rios, Jamaica Weather -- sunny 84 degrees. Not really much to report here that has not been said a million times before and nothing has really changed over the years. Within a couple of seconds after leaving the port area we were asked several times from several people if we wanted to 'party', have our hair braided, need a taxi, going to the falls, need a 'guide', need an island tour, etc. We try our best to avoid these people and simply say no, however some of them still follow you and repeatedly ask what we are doing or where we are going.
We spent a couple of hours walking and shopping at the Taj Mahal shopping center, Harbour Shops and Island Village, bought several items (including three pounds of Blue Mountain coffee at $16 a lb.) and then to Margaritaville for a cold drink and appetizers (too early for lunch). We had a brief ten or fifteen second 'sprinkle' which ruined our morning. For those who have not been here, it's a great place to kick back and relax, nice music and on the beach. Plus it's a great location for ship photos.
Tuesday -- Georgetown, Grand Cayman Weather -- sunny 80 degrees. Suzi and I were married here, so this place always brings back the best of memories for both of us. We had an excellent morning walking around and doing some shopping. I spent a few minutes at La Casa Del Habano looking at the cigars and purchased some excellent Cubita whole bean coffee. We had lunch at Margaritaville (had a table on the balcony that overlooks the main street) and did some shopping in their store.
Not sure why, but the streets did not seem as crowded as they have in the past. I think it has something to do with all of the businesses being open now since the last time we were here when they were still in hurricane recovery mode.
Of all of the islands I've been to in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is the one place I feel the safest at. The island is always clean and no one gestures you into their store.
We had dinner at Sabatini's and to be honest, I was not that really impressed. The service was excellent, however the concept of bringing out a dozen or so 'samples' before the main entrée doesn't really work for me. Most of the food was not eaten and I hate to see it go to waste. The restaurant does have a beautiful location overlooking the aft of the ship; however the place was close to empty. We were the first couple to arrive at 6:00 pm and when we left at 8:30 pm, I would estimate less than a dozen people arrived for dinner.
Wednesday -- Cozumel, Mexico Weather -- sunny 82 degrees. Another great day here walking around and shopping. We always take a taxi from the port to the forum shops and start our little walking journey there. The shops are lined up against the beautiful water front which has some outstanding photo opportunities. Many stores still have the usual 'hawkers' trying to get you inside to shop, however I will say the people who work there are generally very helpful and cheerful. While shopping, I found a Christmas present for Suzi at DI that she has been wanting for a while. When we were done shopping, we took a horse/carriage ride to -- you guessed it -- Margaritaville for lunch and drinks. The fish here is always excellent!
This is one port where you really have to pay attention to the prices while you shop. Suzi and I both saw the same exact item in one place for $18 being sold a block away for $10.
Thursday -- Sea Day Weather -- mostly cloudy 77 degrees. I spent most of the day in the casino and walking around the ship. Suzi continued her usual sea day tradition of reading and relaxing in the stateroom. Since I was inside all day, I wasn't aware until someone in the casino (who had been trying to get some sun by the pool) said that it was overcast with some intermittent rain.
Formal Dinner was excellent and we went to a show afterwards. I did get several compliments for wearing a tux so maybe I'll wear one again next year.
Before turning in for the night, I went to the Purser's office to break some large bills to smaller ones for our tip money. From past experience, I know the last full day of a cruise that this place will have a long line almost all day. Besides the tip money employees receive from the 'Princess auto-tip', we also give a few people additional money for the great service they provide us throughout the week.
Friday -- Princess Cay Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. It was mostly cloudy and some very light rain in the area; however the ship arrived on time as we hear the anchor drop. Then I see a tender boat head out as we discussed when we were going to go downstairs and get off of the ship. Before we can come to a set time, the captain announces that because of inclement weather (choppy seas), our stop at Princess Cays had been cancelled (FYI -- port tax was refunded and put on account). The captain said he was waiting for the tender to arrive back from island and then we would cruise to port Everglades for our scheduled arrival on Saturday morning. This worked out pretty good for me as the casino opened early and I won some money! Since we were now ahead of schedule, the ship slowed down and made a leisurely journey through the many islands in the Bahamas back to the port.
Dinner was excellent and it was nice Monica had some time to talk with us for a while. It was hard to say goodbye to her and Jimmy after having a great week with them. After dinner we went back to the cabin to pack (not one of our favorite things to do!) and then watch a movie.
Saturday -- Debarkation A. This is always a hard day for me as I hate to leave a ship and end our vacation. We had coffee from the atrium coffee bar (need to have exact amount in cash as your cruise card no longer works) and wait in our cabin before heading down to Club Fusion (another Princess Platinum perk) at our assigned time so Jojo can clean our cabin for the next lucky folks who are staying here.
We are supposed to get off around 7:30 am; however they are behind schedule unloading the luggage in the port area. Around 8:15 am our luggage tag color is called and it takes less than ten minutes to get off of the ship, claim our luggage, go through customs and grab a taxi back to Embassy Suites. Princess handles the debarkation process so well. It is always smooth and quick and only a few rule breaking stragglers blocking the exit route.
Ship A+. What can I say; the Ruby Princess is a brand new ship (we were on its fifth cruise) and is very similar to the Caribbean Princess (that we've been on twice) and just as easy to navigate. The ship layout was excellent (no art auction in the isles!), very few announcements, colors were tasteful and Princess also had Christmas decorations in the Atrium and dining room.
It should be noted we do not eat at buffets, but overheard several people say the lay out is still a PITA.
My favorite change to the Ruby Princess compared to the Caribbean Princess is the casino & cigar smoking lounge. The casino feels much better organized and easy to walk around. The cigar smoking lounge is much smaller than the one on the Caribbean Princess and it only has one television. However I really like its new location in the corner of the casino and it is open all day (compared to the Caribbean Princess where it was only open in the evenings).
FYI -- the casino was packed almost every evening and it was hard to find a seat at a blackjack table after 8:00 pm. I saw a woman win $7,100 playing slots late Friday afternoon. I think everyone on the ship 'heard' about it!
Food Service A. Food C+. Food and service are both subjective and I will say upfront I am a very picky eater; however the new 'Chuck Wagon' approach in the dining room (chili, meatloaf, fajitas, etc) had me scratching my head wondering if I was on a Princess cruise or at a truck stop restaurant.
While the food was average at best (meals -- 2 excellent, 1 very good, 1 average, 2 below average/poor), the service was excellent (dinner waiter team was Monica & Jimmy). We ate in the dining room for six nights and at Sabatini's one night. I can honestly say that this is the worst dining room food I've had since my first Princess cruise in 1994. The food on our two RCI Mariner cruises was even significantly better than this cruise. Did this ruin our cruise, no; however it will make us look at other cruise lines where we think the food is better and has similar service.
The only other incident to report was we had asked to sit at a large table (traditional dining, 6:00 pm) when we booked the cruise over a year ago. On the first night we were escorted to a table for four. Another couple did show up, however they told us they were not happy with the table location and were going to change tables. They stopped by the following evening after we already had been seated and asked if we wanted to sit with them at another table. We saw it was a table for four and it was with a different wait-staff team. We declined as we were very happy with our service and to be honest would feel bad that they would loose our tip money.
Entertainment B. CD was ok, honestly nothing noteworthy about him or the staff. We attended two shows (actually tried to attend another one, but found out if you did not show up 30 minutes in advance you had little chance of getting a seat) and both shows were very good. The daily activities show that is on the Princess channel every morning advertised as a 'Live' show was actually taped the day before.
Casino layout was excellent and most of the staff was pretty cheerful.
We also missed a couple of the usual activities we like to attend as they didn't start until 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm and that was too late for us.
Miscellaneous LCD Television was excellent and the satellite service was great the entire week. Think we lost the signal for a few hours on two days. Several really good movies and programs to watch in the mornings and before going to bed. ESPN actually was the US satellite feed instead of the Spanish feed we've had the last few cruises.
Coffee -- once again, this is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. The buffet coffee is still disgusting, room service coffee was not bad, and dining room service (after dinner) was pretty good. The coffee bar coffee ($1) was pretty good, latte's ($2) were very good (best I could find on the ship that I could drink everyday) and so was the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee ($2). Note: The coffee bar is not supposed to open until 6:30 am, however the same guy was there everyday and served me around 6:15 am without me even asking (IOW, he asked me what I would like, I didn't ask him first). The bakery next door still has great chocolate frosted donuts and excellent sugar donuts.
We did notice the average age was significantly older then our previous cruise last December. We saw a handful of children throughout the week and maybe a dozen teenagers. I would estimate approximately one third of the passengers were retired. These are not bad things, just comments of what I noticed.
We did not like the new Princess Patter look and layout as too many items are left off compared to the previous Princess Patter.
Captain was Tony Yeoman's. Never saw him or his staff, however enjoyed his noon update from the bridge.
We had two big groups on this cruise. A large group from the Mirage (saw them every day in the casino), and Vacations to Go (travel agency) had a singles group (although I never saw any of them after the first day).
When shopping, do yourself a favor and check the ship prices on items you are looking for. We both saw several items that used to be less expensive on the islands and now the ship prices are actually cheaper.
Conclusion We had a very nice relaxing cruise, great weather on a new ship with the best service from almost all of the staff. I can say without a doubt our room steward and our dining room staff would both rate in my top three for service out of sixteen cruises.
This was my tenth Princess cruise and last one for a while.
We're looking forward to our next cruise (10/09) on HAL Westerdam.
If you have any questions, comments or looking for help that I may provide, please contact me (Jody Brown) at email@example.com.